The return of Suresh Raina could boost the batting department but spin-reliant Chennai Super Kings will have to adapt to conditions that may assist pacers as they seek to improve upon their nightmarish show of last season. Three-time champions CSK had a flop show last season, avoiding the wooden spoon thanks to a few victories at the back-end of the league phase as they failed to make the playoffs for the first time in the tournament's history.
Here is a look at what works and what doesn't for the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led team, which opens its campaign by taking on Delhi Capitals in Mumbai on April 10.
What are CSK's Strengths?
CSK have oodles of experience, which will stand them in good stead in crucial situations. The inspirational leadership of Dhoni is another advantage for the team.
The return of Raina will strengthen the batting unit which faltered far too often in last year's IPL in the UAE. A batting line-up of Raina, along with Faf du Plessis, Dhoni, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja, Sam Curran, new recruit Moeen Ali, and fast-improving Ruturaj Gaikwad could prove a handful for rival bowling attacks and big scores could set the platform for the bowlers to do their job.
With the likes of Lungi Ngidi, Shardul Thakur, Curran, Deepak Chahar in the line-up, CSK have a decent bowling unit to test the best of batsmen in opposition ranks.
What are CSK's Weaknesses?
A team comprising of aging stars proved CSK's undoing last season and they have stuck pretty much to the core squad. In the fast-paced world of T20s, senior stars could prove to be a handicap. With some of the CSK players, including Dhoni, Raina, Rayudu, and Tahir having retired from international cricket and not playing domestic games, lack of match time could hurt the team.
That apart, the captain's waning finishing powers has not helped the team's cause. The decision of Australian pace ace Josh Hazelwood to pull out of the IPL to give himself rest ahead of the hectic international season ahead will be a blow for CSK. Also, Ravindra Jadeja is returning from a long injury break and how soon he gets back to his best will have to be seen. Veteran Trinidad all-rounder Dwayne Bravo's diminishing returns apart from his injury problems would worry CSK.
With this year's IPL matches to be played at neutral venues, CSK, which rely so much on spin, will have to alter their strategy, especially in Mumbai where the wickets may also have something for pacers. The spin bowling department has experienced and skillful operators but the think-tank needs to get the combination right.
Imran Tahir spent most of last season on the bench and the others like Piyush Chawla and Karn Sharma were ineffective.
What are CSK's Opportunities?
After a forgettable 2020 season where they finished seventh, things can only go north for Dhoni and his men. Known to be slow starters, the Super Kings would need to be at their best from the beginning to make an impact and also get the combination right.
What are CSK's Threats?
Poor batting let down CSK last season in the UAE and if they don't rework their tactics, it could hamper their chances yet again. The pace bowlers will need to step up big time if the three-time champions are to put up a good show, else it would be another tough season for Dhoni & Co.